Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 24, 2008
By ROBIN SHANNON
LAPLACE – Lacking the necessary information to make an informed decision on the matter, the St. John Planning and Zoning Commission moved Monday evening to table discussions on a proposal to industrially zone land in Mt. Airy to be used as a tank farm.
After a brief public hearing on the matter, the commission voted 5-2 to postpone their decision on whether the $140 million Angelina Tank Farm site should be designated an industrial area. The decision will now come after a July 19 election on the incorporation of the town of Garyville. The proposed tank farm falls within the area trying to incorporate.
Before the vote took place, commission members expressed concern over not receiving a land use study regarding the area in question until just before the start of Monday’s meeting. The study is a necessary component that needs to be reviewed before a designation on zoning can be made.
The motion to table the issue was made by Commission Member Mike Luminais, who is a resident of Garyville. Luminais said a vote on designation without the review of necessary documents would not be fair to the residents living in the area.
“Why can’t this wait,” asked Luminais. “This land use study was not handed to me until tonight. I need time.”
Parish Spokesperson Buddy Boe said the owners of the tank farm, Safeland Storage LLC, had asked that the land be designated industrial, and that the company had gone through the proper steps to make that happen. He said an industrial designation would exempt the company from having to pay taxes from any proposed municipality. He said the parish was following the proper timeline for this type of procedure.
Supporters of the incorporation, however, did not agree, and felt that the decision was being “fast-tracked” by the parish administration, which ultimately opposes the incorporation measure.
“This push is another attempt to circumvent and pull resources from the area most affected by the industrial resources,” said Garyville attorney Geri Broussard Baloney who has been spearheading the incorporation effort. “I think it is premature to make a decision if you have not studied the study.”
Baloney also took issue with the fact that the land use study was done by the parish. She believed that an outside group should do an independent study in order to get an unbiased opinion on usage.
The zoning designation issue has been on the Planning and Zoning Commission table since its last regular meeting, held June 16. The commission had been unclear as to whether pending litigation against the company had been settled.
Jim Percy, Safeland’s legal council, told the commission that the suit, levied by residents of the area, had been canceled. Percy said any and all permits issued by the state Department of Environmental Quality were now finalized. He said the specific terms of the settlement were confidential.
The tank farm will consist of 63 containers to be used for the storage of crude oil, petroleum, and biodiesel fuel.